Mario Lemieux on Josh Ho-Sang’s No. 66: ‘I’m fine with it’

New York Islanders coach Doug Weight talks about the growth of his young forward Josh Ho-Sang, and hopefully helps put to rest the discussion about his number choice.

New York Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang raised some eyebrows (and even a few tempers) when the team announced he’d be wearing No. 66 in the National Hockey League.

The number that Mario Lemieux made famous has not been retired league-wide—that honour belongs only to Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99—but there was still an unwritten rule that kept current NHLers from sporting the number.

Until Ho-Sang, that is. And now, he officially has The Magnificent One’s blessing.

“I’m fine with it,” Lemieux told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via a spokesperson. “It’s just a number. Number 4 and number 9 were worn by great players (Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe, respectively), and they are not retired forever. Players can choose whatever number they want.”

Lemieux’s words aside, that likely won’t stop Penguins fans from sending some jeers Ho-Sang’s way during the Metropolitan matchup in Pittsburgh on Friday night.

“The Pittsburgh fans, I’m definitely the most accepting of the bashing and animosity they want to have,” Ho-Sang told the Gazette.

“I mean, I know I’m wearing the number of the man who kind of built this place.”

Many in the hockey world have commented on the young player’s choice, and Ho-Sang himself spoke out about his desire to honour Lemieux, his childhood idol, by once again putting No. 66 on a hockey sweater.

Ho-Sang reiterated that sentiment on Thursday, a few days after a story came out about Lemieux sending a letter to six-year-old cancer patient Darran Dunlap.

“You look at the foundation he’s created for cancer patients and in retrospect what happened to him in his career and how he got cancer and dealt with that,” Ho-Sang told the Gazette. “He fought and continues to fight for other people. He thinks outside himself. For me, that’s a man worth looking up to.”

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